Category Archives: think

Introspection on a hot summer night

dallas-starry-nightI just walked the dog and looking at the stars in the sky reminded me of my teenage years, when I would sit outside alone at night and write in my journal. As I remember it, I genuinely believed that I was a deep thinker. In hindsight, a 15-year-old who ponders big questions, writes hypotheses, and then does research is probably good grounds for a critical thinker, dreamer, and writer.

I wouldn’t change my undergraduate education if I could do it again — my degree in professional writing has served me well in my career — but I would probably steer my 20-something AND 30-something selves in grad school to pursue a business degree.  Instead, I got hung up on humanities as soon as the business requirements were out of the way, so I’m stuck believing in business ethics and research methodologies.

Honestly, at 43 I’m still the same dreamer I was at 13. The hot night and the summer stars brought back tons of memories of the introspection I used to do. These days I find myself thanking God for a lot of people and things that I know I don’t get around to thanking those people about.

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Another marketing rant

I believe that Future Ashley will forgive another marketing rant because I know she’ll appreciate the reminder to remain passionate about messaging and branding! On with the rant…

I got a call today from a recruiter. First, she told me that my resume was “neat.” Almost 20 years of professional experience is … neat?! Next, she told me that the “social media mastermind” position she was trying to fill was a part-time, entry-level opportunity.

Let’s be frank: The exec who commissioned — or likely finally agreed to commission — a social media marketing role has little or no understanding of this thing called “social media.” He or she had probably been worn down by others and finally agrees that “social media” is a thing, and it’s here to stay. He or she thinks that hiring a minimum wage student to handle the social media issue for 20 hours a week will solve the issue of the board or share holder or other exec approval. For two or three months, that exec is going to be pretty proud.

The problem with hiring someone who can fog a mirror to handle your social media presence is that’s who you’ve hired to manage your reputation. “Social media” has become a thing that too many businesses don’t or can’t accept. I’ve been saying since 2008: People are already talking about you online. Do you want to participate in and hopefully control the conversation?

Offering minimum wage for a “social media mastermind” is a giant I DON’T CARE ABOUT MY BRAND to your customers. The commissioning exec thinks that he or she has checked that box — Hey, I’ve got a dedicated social media person! Sadly, that minimum wage-earning person gives not a jot for your brand, and has only the experience the commissioning exec thinks you need! I suspect that this particular position is looking for someone to broadcast a simple message, probably several times a week. What that person fails to realize is that social media is a conversation. It’s not enough to broadcast a message. You have to listen, respond, ask, and discuss. That person needs a brain between their two listening ears to craft timely, brand-worthy responses. You cannot simply broadcast your agenda.

Delighting your customers is the best social media strategy. Responding to customers while staying on-message is also a huge factor. Don’t offer minimum wage for your reputation management if you care about your brand or reputation.

All roads lead to marketing.

All roads lead to marketing in my world. I absolutely expected that some of my marketing-fu would help me in my wedding planning — I’ve worked with printers, so doing my own invitations and other stationery is fun and easy; creating a wedding website and app was pretty fun, too. I can maintain a mean Pinterest board that should be the envy of other brides! Fellow marketers, stick with me because you’ll share my pain.

I was perusing a wedding forum tonight, and I clicked on a thread that was supposedly about RSVP etiquette. The bride was worked up because five days before the requested RSVP deadline, only a third of her guests had responded. And she had even included a QR code on the invitation for their convenience!!!

The thread then took a turn for the worse: QR code enablement. As the self-congratulatory comments amongst those who did or will embrace the QR code on their wedding invitations continued — because it’s so easy and convenient for their guests! — I started laughing. I was staring at my iPhone and laughing. My first impulse was to email a former colleague who really fed my distaste for the QR code, but the email blossomed into this post. Some rants need to be saved for Future Ashley to re-read.

I used a QR code on my business card ... four years ago!

I used a QR code on my business card … four years ago!

My basic distrust of using a QR code for anything is that you have to rely on a random third party to ably deliver your message. You can generate your own QR code, and you can design and awesome mobile-friendly page, site, or microsite, but you are helpless when it comes to how your audience captures your code and renders your message!

My aforementioned colleague introduced me to the brilliance of Scott Stratten, who has some hilariously epic rants about QR codes, and I believe these apply to brides considering using QR codes on their wedding invitations.

“Think before we do!” says Stratten. Wedding planning, and a lot about life, is the same as marketing: Research and know your audience! Execute accordingly. Of every person on my wedding invitation list, I’m comfortable in assuming that I’m the only person who has ever used a QR code. But at least 90 percent of my invitation list have downloaded smart phone apps and all of them know how to visit a website. I’m skipping the QR code in favor of url and app download instructions.

Socknado!

 

Laundry Armageddon 2014

Laundrageddon-turned-Socknado

Laundrageddon turned into Socknado! I unearthed about two dozen pairs of socks for donation or wear. The Socknado purge also led to another purge of nearby drawers. Goodbye ratty socks and things, hello neatly folded socks and clothes!

I took out a huge bag of trash last night, and 90 percent of the bag was full of the aforementioned purged ratty things. I have another metric ton of usable clothing to donate to Genesis Women’s Shelter.

Before I got ready for work this morning, I added even more clothes — professional-looking stuff that I’ll never wear again — to the donate bag. One question that came to mind was: Why did I move this stuff at all, knowing I didn’t want or need it?!

This evening while unpacking another box, I decided to keep something that I haven’t used in several years. It’s nice, I like it, and imagined myself wondering in the future where this particular item was. But I realize that this internal conversation is how I ended up keeping so much more stuff than I should have.

I hope Future Ashley is better at purging stuff. I also hope Future Jeff is as patient with said purging!

 

Selling it!

Way too much of my brain has been focused on lead generation for too long! I find myself continuing to struggle with maintaining a branding mindset, which is odd because my passion for marketing is actually more branding than lead gen! I guess shifting between the marketing languages one speaks is like shifting between any other languages one knows.

If I knew of anything I could so easily sell right now, it’s getting a massage. And the power of sound-proofing. And the wonders of clean sheets. And the glee of being engaged.

I had the best massage yesterday. I can’t recommend Julie Burkhart enough! We worked together years ago, and I loved her so much. She was a nail tech with an awesome sense of humor and great attitude, and I was a naive esthetician thinking that every esthetician was in the business for the same reason I was — to help people. Julie has been a massage therapist since then, and wow does she have the touch! Unlike many massage therapists I’ve had, she does not skimp on the reflexology on the hands and feet, nor does she torture the legs with excessive pressure to the shins. She was not afraid to dig into serious problem areas, AKA my softball-sized left shoulder knot that has been festering since the beginning of January. If you ever need excellent help from a genuine therapist, ask me for Julie’s details!

I’m wearing my Fitbit again after losing the case for it that clips onto my clothes. If I could sell a pedometer to anyone, I would tell you how informative it is to at least know how much you move around and, likewise, how much you don’t. The sleep tracking of the Fitbit is also really informative.

Parenthetically, one of the great things about having a fiancé is that he reaches all the tall stuff for me! Seriously though, I love coming home to him every day. I enjoy being engaged more than I thought possible! Everything is different, but I can’t explain it.  Perhaps it’s our new home, or learning new communication techniques, or just spending more time together. Note to self: Get engaged to Jeff every time you can. He is endearing.

You have a personal brand. Yes, you.

your personal brand

Your personal brand

Have you seen those stupid Facebook status updates about flashing a cop to get out of a ticket? Or the lovely bathroom updates? Not bathroom updates like people are renovating their master suite or guest bath! Updates about issues we’ve all faced while using the facilities. If you’ve been lucky enough to have missed those inappropriate status updates, I envy your Facebook friends list.

The first time I saw one of the updates was actually on reddit, but then I saw a few show up in my Facebook feed. Today, I received a message from a Facebook connection (for now) that reads like it was written by a seven-year-old, or possibly a non-native English speaker. I hope for my Facebook connection’s sake, it was copy and pasted from whatever troll chain letter this person received. The grammar alone is offensive enough, but the content makes me rage enough to take to my blog about it. Here’s a portion of the chain message, and I won’t post the entire stupid, disgusting thing, so it’s safe to read:

Is a game and i had to be a sport now u have to be a sport and post on ur status one of these without giving an explanation and see who falls for it liking or commenting on the status 1) [disgusting, offensive, and misspelled] 2) [also misspelled, and inappropriate for social media] 3) [the speeding ticket one] 4) [ew] 5) [wildly inappropriate]. Be a sport and do it -this is what happens when u comment on stupid statuses like this one like I did

I did not, nor would I comment on any of these status updates. Actually, these are the types of updates that I filter from my Facebook feed. I don’t have to “be a sport,” and neither should you. The way you represent yourself online matters. Everything you put out about yourself counts toward your personal brand. In this day and age, almost all of us are findable on search engines. Personally, I absolutely expect employers, associates, and professionals I respect to Google me. I can’t call myself an experienced marketing and social media professional without paying very close attention to my entire online presence.

Maybe you’re not in marketing. Maybe you’re not even a professional who cares about your reputation. Maybe you’re thinking none of this applies to you, although I can’t imagine a person in the first world for whom this would actually be true, other than a hermit with a large trust fund. Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom who just uses Facebook for fun. I don’t know why you would ever think so little of your own influence that you would forward or engage in this kind of chain letter-type immature behavior. It’s baffling to me that people don’t realize that once you put something out there, it is always out there.

Like the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo said in the Facebook movie: The internet is written in ink, not pencil.

Even if I haven’t convinced you that your online presence is a large part of your personal brand, don’t ever think I’d compromise mine for your entertainment.

Technology, website, and White Collar

Oooh, White Collar, I need a good episode tonight. I will start it momentarily.

But first, I have to express my annoyance with Teh Interwebs. I began the process of moving my domain registration from GoDaddy to Dot5. It took too long, and required too many steps in the approval process. I answered a hundred security questions with both registrars; why should it take so long after that?

Now I’m in the process of converting my free WordPress site to a hosted WordPress.org site. Dot5 isn’t as WordPress-friendly as they claim to be. Frankly, I’ve decided to give up for the night and focus on White Collar.

I really love WordPress CMS because it’s the most intuitive that I’ve used, by far. I’ve worked with web developers who prefer Drupal and Joomla, but I think WordPress is better for people and organizations that don’t necessarily have a technical person to teach them a more complex content management system. And WordPress beats the pants off of doing it the old fashioned way — Dreamweaver plus FTP. Ugh.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a date with this guy:

Neal-Caffrey-white-collar-10698147-1280-1024

My date for the night

More thoughts on hard work

Sorting through panic disorder is hard work. I do feel like other aspects of my life suffer when I’m focused on just the one part.

I’m glad of the work, though. Lately because I can talk to my mom about stuff that I didn’t ever think I needed to talk to her about. Honestly, I never expected to have a how-your-traumatic-cancer-affected-me conversation. Although, I suppose all my blogging about my panic disorder is just that. Law of unintentional consequences, I think. I do not ever, and have never, intended to diminish or over-shadow my mother’s terrifying fight against cancer. In my mind, my mom is the strongest person I know. She fought. I was inspired and mortified by her and all those folks fighting with her at the radiology lab and in the transplant ward. What my mom overcame is miraculous. My mom is miraculous.

The benefits of hard work — of miraculous work — are cool things like unexpectedly being able to walk more, allow loving people into your life, seek therapy, pursue a career dream, travel, and generally have more to give.

OK. so all that sentiment is because I went to therapy today, and I learned a bunch and was encouraged to look at my triggers. Therapy is incredibly helpful. I’m grateful for it.

Honestly, I was just distracted by a Gatsby trailer, so let’s wrap this up. Panic = sucks. Mom = awesome. Work = hard. Therapy = helpful.

I love a lot of people. You’re one of them.

Just keep walking!

A few weeks ago I bought a FitBit One, a high-end pedometer. Just to interject here — if I’d not bought all the cheap, crappy pedometers I’ve used over the last three or four years, I could have bought a FitBit a long time ago with much better results! I also like the FitBit One because it tracks my sleep.

Wearing a pedometer has helped me to learn SO MUCH. I thought I would be more active over the weekend, but actually, I’m not. Also, on the three days of the week that I comute, I have to really, really work to get some steps. That boils down to five days a week in which I am officially “sedentary.”

The first several days I wore the pedometer, I clocked 1,000 – 2,000 steps a day. Quickly, I started stepping up (har har) to my own personal challenge of clocking 5,000 steps a day. Why 5,000 steps a day? Somebody some time on some site told me that fewer than 5,000 steps a day equals a sedentary lifestyle. Ten thousand steps a day equals an active lifestyle. So, I’m working my up to you, babe!

First goal: Get to 5,000 steps a day consistently and burn more calories. At two weeks, I was sore as all get out. My knees, both previously injured, were killing me. My ankles and hips were really sore from the steps, and my arms, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands were sore from the introduction of almost-daily Wii tennis.

I found a Foot Therapy and Chinese Reflexology place nearby and had a very healing hour-long massage. It helped me to keep pushing. This week I hit the mark of three weeks at 5,000 steps, so I increased my goal to 5,500 steps a day.

Second goal: 5,500 steps a day. Two days into the new goal, and I am sore! I haven’t had as much free time to play Wii, so balancing the steps with the upper body Wii stuff is a new goal.

Wearing the FitBit One is an educational experience.

Third goal: 6,000 steps a day. Hopefully sooner than later!

What cancer gave me

If you review my blog, you’ll notice a gap in public posts from the last quarter of 2008 all the way through the second quarter of 2010. I have a couple of reasons for that, but the most significant one is that in January 2009, my mom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Generally speaking, if you can avoid it, I’d suggest you do so. But if you can’t, here’s what I got from cancer:

  • A serious sense of humor. It’s not the oxymoron you think it is. When my mom was going through the worst of it (bone marrow transplant), she told me that I was the funny one. My job was to keep the family laughing. I took that job very seriously, at any expense. I find my sense of humor has been permanently changed. I can, and do, find humor in everything. People can be disarmed by the ease with which I joke about serious or taboo topics. 
  • Perspective. A lot of little things used to really get to me. I can more easily identify little things from the big things. With some notable exceptions. Stand by for that explanation.
  • Rock solid faith in my family. From the oldest to the youngest, my family pulled together when my mom was sick. My youngest niece was pretty young, but totally fearless — of hospitals, of her grandmother in a neck brace using a walker, of her aunt developing a brand new sense of humor, of everything her mother was going through. Even my late grandmother, suffering from Alzheimers,  was very supportive when my mom told her about the cancer.
  • Panic disorder. This one’s my favorite. I described it vaguely here, but the reality is that panic and anxiety grew to control my life beginning shortly before I knew about my mom’s cancer. My first panic attack was about ten days before I knew my mom was sick; although my mom’s cancer was pretty fully developed by that point, we didn’t know it yet. From that first panic attack, the anxiety cycled exponentially. I developed fear of heights and driving, severe social anxiety, and agoraphobia. A lot of little things bother me in a panicky way, but those are irrational things. The big, more logical things, are much easier to deal with.
  • A new lease on life. Since my mom’s cancer — I realize I’m describing everything in terms of that — I’ve experienced everything just a little differently. I push myself more than I ever have. And I love it. Although it’s hard to beat back feelings of panic, my current euphoria is a high worth riding.

My experience in a very brief nutshell.